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Posts from the ‘Golf’ Category

Screw Work, Play Golf …

Slider-3In 1923 the President of the largest US steel company was Charles Schwab, the President of the largest US gas company was Edward Hopson, the President of the New York Stock Exchange was Richard Whitney, the greatest wheat speculator of his day was Arthur Cooger and the Great Bear of Wall Street was Cosabee Livermore. They were considered some of the most successful people in the world.

Charles Schwab died a pauper, Edward Hopson went insane, Richard Whitney was released from prison to die at home, Arthur Cooger died abroad, penniless and Cosabee Livermore committed suicide.

The 1923 PGA Champion and winner of the US Open was Gene Sarazen.  He played golf until he was 92, passed away in 1999 at the age of 95 and was financially secure at the time of his death.

Making the Cut – Golf Quarterly, Issue 27, Spring 2018

Or maybe not – from the same issue:

Though time all other griefs may cure
All other hurts may mend,
The miseries of golf endure,
to them there is no end.

Kümmel and old wives

I have drunk kümmel in the members’ lounge at Muirfield – there I have said it – not exactly Golf in the Wild but a rare and fine experience nonetheless.  The full story is told here – Fairway and Tarmac.  This extract explains the significance of the liquer:

Lunch is taken in the lounge, jacket and tie being mandatory. I have brought a tie from the funerals drawer for the occasion – I am a guest and I must honour club traditions, no matter that such attire is at complete odds with my late hippy demeanour. A generous tray of sandwiches is accompanied by a gunner (ginger beer, ginger ale, dash of lime and a measure of angostura bitters), followed by coffee and the traditional Muirfield and Prestwick liqueur – kümmel, a sweet, colourless drink flavoured with caraway seed, cumin, and fennel. First impressions are mixed but I warm to it as the glass empties. I am unsure of the effect it may have on the back nine.

Here’s the thing – I played out of my skin that day which helped influence my opinion of Muirfield as a rare and wonderful place.  I cannot argue with the members’ claim that it is the finest golf course in the world.  Perhaps the kümmel had a part to play – according to Herbert Warren Wind, the American sports writer, writing in 1972, “kümmel has long been a favourite of English golfers, because there is an old wives tale to the effect that it is the best antidote in the world for shaky putting” – Golf Quarterly Issue 4, Winter 2011.  The reference to the English should probably be Scottish or maybe the Scots don’t suffer from “shaky putting”.

I will be recommending we stock a bottle at Allendale Golf Club.

Muirfield's 18th green

Muirfield’s 18th green


The journey continues – Chapter 2 …

… to Selkirk and Innerleithen:

The journey starts here …

The second promotional video, starting with Chapter 1 and Allendale:

Tobermory Review

087-Tobermory postA very generous review from Gordon Chalmers of Tobermory Golf Club which is due to appear in the next edition of Round & About Mull & Iona:

If, like me, you blagged your way through English at school using Letts study notes to save you the effort of actually ploughing through your Shakespeare or Jane Austen set-text, you will probably be tempted to pick up this handsome little paperback, flick it open at the chapter for your local area, scan read it to see if you recognise anyone, and put it back on the shelf. Please let me assure you; that would be a big mistake. This book deserves to be read in its entirety.

Admittedly, I did start at page 103 with Robin’s arrival on Mull, but then this is not a whodunnit, so why wouldn’t I? It rapidly dawns on the reader this is not a gazeeter of off-the-beaten-track golf courses, nor just another travelogue. Combining stories of local characters, history, social comment and even elements of  autobiography, this delightful book will carry you along from Craignure (or wherever you  choose to start) to Tobermory, then over the Sound of Mull to Kilchoan and onwards to Durness, where on completion, you’ll jump back to Allendale and find your way from there to your original departure point. Oh yes, and he plays and writes about golf on some of Scotland’s less-well-known courses, describing his experiences in a way that the longer handicapper will surely relate to.

In truth, it is difficult to say more about this book without resorting to either unnecessary hyperbole or outright pleading on behalf of the author, so let pictures paint a few words; they say never to judge a book by its cover, but maybe this is an exception. Admittedly the front cover carries a typical golf-in-the-highlands photo of the Sgurr of Eigg as seen from the third green at Traigh Golf Club near Arisaig – nothing at all wrong with that, since you ask; but flip over and look at the picture strip accompanying the synopsis on the back. There’s the Sphinx, a 1960s racing car, and Killin Railway Station in the age of steam alongside the more orthodox golf pics. Flick through the chapter heads and see the little quotes that accompany the title…Jacques Brel, da Vinci, Bob Dylan, Dickens. Now you’re starting to get a glimpse of where Robin Down will be taking you as you follow him on his golfing journey.

“Golf in the Wild” is quirky, no doubt about it, and a right good read for golfer and non-golfer alike. Don’t put it back on that shelf.

Allendale and Traigh

I had thought publishing Golf in the Wild was the end of a long journey but it turns out it was just the beginning. The slow, arduous distribution and PR process has already introduced me to some very supportive people from out-of-the-way places. Last weekend the good men of Traigh (see chapter 7) visited Allendale and were as enthusiastic about our course as I am enthusiastic about theirs. David Shaw Stewart produced an impromptu watercolour of Allendale’s signature hole, the 17th – Grand Canyon, in celebration of a grand, if windy and cold day out. I am proud to be mentioned and wish I had the talent to reciprocate.


The Grand Canyon

Durness – Journey’s End

Golf is all about numbers  – look at a scorecard and it is covered in them:  the holes 1 to 18; the White, Yellow and Red distances for each hole; pars; stroke indexes; gross scores; nett  scores; stableford points, handicaps.  Non-golfers might be surprised to know that there are GPS systems which tell you exact distances from where your ball has landed to the hole – more numbers.

Golf in the Wild takes you on a journey of 727 miles from Northumberland to the far northwest of Scotland, taking in fifteen courses – assuming you play eighteen at each that is a total of 270 holes and this is what awaits as a finale, on the last course, Durness – what a finish (click on the image to see if you can make out the flag):

The eighteenth at Durness

This is exactly what the sadistic inventor of golf had in mind when he explained his intentions to Robin Williams – sensitivity warning – those offended by bad language should not watch/listen:

And this image just to prove that I don’t ‘dress like a pimp’ and no wheels are involved – I carry my own bag.

Golf in the Wild
This post was first published at

InDesign CC

Having finally bitten the bullet and subscribed to InDesign CC, the formatting of the book is slowly taking shape.  Starting with a blank sheet of paper is quite a daunting prospect – it seems like it should be easy – the page size is pre-defined, there is guidance on fonts and margins but there is still much to decide.  It has taken me three days to get this far – the chapter heading is intended to echo a golf flag and there must be space for all the various course names and quotes, all of which vary in size e.g. Selkirk & Innerleithen.  Then there are header and footer/page number options, line spacing, font sizes, footnotes, dropcaps etc etc.  The challenge is to be original but professional – it has to “look right”.  Hopefully it does.

Some encouragement

The search for a publisher goes on but in the meantime here are some encouraging words from the friend of a friend (both writers):

Very interesting – and not just because I like the book idea. I think I probably told you I’ve embarked on a similar operation – blog etc – to help market my books. I’m no expert but your pal’s looks very good to me. I genuinely like the sound of the book and all your friend can do from now on is promote it as vigorously as possible. Sadly it’s a fact that many, many good books don’t get the success they deserve and many, many crap books become best sellers. A novel by the topless model Jordan once sold more copies than the aggregate sales of all the books on the Booker short list. It’s also a fact that some books come out of nowhere and sell many thousands and your friend can only hope his book is one of these. It could easily be the case. 

The kindness of strangers…..


The weather has finally turned in the North East of England but this picture gives me hope.  It was taken late October 2011, the sun is low but shining brightly and the autumn-coloured leaves still cling to the trees; there are more golfing days to come this year, hopefully dry ones. This is the view from Strathtay’s third tee with the par 3 green showing as a light patch between the trees.  I can think of no other golf hole that climbs quite so steeply in such a short space – everything contrives to leave you breathless.